Why am I so favoured?

This is the question Elizabeth asked Mary, a young, single, mother-to-be. And this is the question I too should have been asking in all my troubles over the years. Instead, I recited the wrong ones…

  • Why won’t you hurry up, God, and answer my prayers?
  • How can I survive in this intolerable situation?
  • Don’t you care, God?

But God has been helping me redirect my focus – to look for what is good. And that is hard for me to do, for everything in my heart cries out against these injustices, it cries out against the cruel behaviour of others.

So, today, I celebrated my father’s death, for 33 years ago today, he suddenly died. Derek and I shared an ice cream sundae, and rejoiced in the bravery my father had to admit that he had done wrong. We thanked God for the occasions where he stood up against wrong. We agreed that because of his severity, I grew much deeper in faith.

So, I celebrate with Elizabeth for God’s favour in hard times.

‘Call me, Bitter.’

That was what Naomi said when she lost her husband and two sons. She said, ‘Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter’ (Ruth 1:20). And in her deep grief, she tried to drive away those she loved.

God’s exiled people experienced the same in nature. They came to a spring, but ‘they could not drink its water because it was bitter’ (Exodus 15:23). They backed away from it and rejected it, because bitterness has a way of driving others away.

But God stepped into both situations. God gave Naomi a grandson through the very person she tried to reject. He cured the water for his exiled people, the very water they refused to drink. And God will do the same for us. Let’s not drive others away in our great sadness and bitterness of heart, for it is often through these people that we find God’s hope.

image: pexels-yaroslav-shuraev-8968077.jpg

Finding the laugh…

Why 143 revisions over 7 years? God isn’t in a hurry when working in our hearts. It took all those years to find the laugh. Enjoy my bio below…

Rich girl, poor girl, beggar girl, Leaf…

Eva Leaf was born in the USA to World War II refugees – a RICH girl – with family and chilling escape stories from Eastern Europe. But Eva’s Pa got spooked and fled again – a POOR girl – to an isolated place in the Ozark mountains.

Next came homelessness in tents and a barn – a BEGGAR girl – with nothing but a cardboard box of clothes and a borrowed guitar. But God stepped in to rescue in an unexpected way. She could finally go to college and study Religious Education in Canada. After getting a degree, she became a teacher on the Mexican/USA border.

Later, an English gentleman, by the name of LEAF, found her and whisked her away. Together, they worked for a charity in England and Portugal. They have now set up home in an English village, where Eva mentors and writes.

She did dream of becoming a doctor, pilot, a commander-in-chief – she has four grown children instead – RICH girl!

Never give up.

Some DON’Ts and DOs when comforting others

  • Don’t yawn or fall asleep, even in a midnight conversation. A griever is fragile.
  • Don’t interrupt them to tell about something good in your life. A griever is vulnerable.
  • Don’t say that others have had it worse. A griever can easily be silenced.
  • Don’t think that comfort is only hugs – it could mean taking them for a walk. A griever needs variety.
  • Don’t promise that everything will turn out alright. A griever deserves honesty.

Some DOs…

  • Do respect their emotional boundaries. Grief can only be carried by the griever.
  • Do remember that as your life goes on, they will grieve in silence. Grief is ever-present.
  • Do keep it confidential, because it is their story to share, not yours. Grief is private.
  • Do promise that you will support them as best you can. Grief is overwhelming.

Yet, there is an even greater Comforter, the one who actually makes us better – God. ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:3).

(photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com)

Our everyday resurrections…

My great comfort is this – our emotional deaths don’t have to be permanent. The privilege to speak, to choose, to work, to love, even if we have lost them, can be regained. The only thing is that in our experienced darknesses, we will change.

One of my frequent go-to verses is Isaiah 45:3, ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.’* For it is in our darknesses that God opens our eyes.

The words I once wanted to speak, I don’t have to anymore. I have different words. My choices are different now. How I work and love changes… Emotional deaths, to put it simply, reposition our lives.

*Berean Standard Bible translation

(photo by Alex Azabache: https://www.pexels.com)

This Crown of Comfort – a blog by my publisher – BRF

Posted by: Eley McAinsh at 19 June 2023

In May we published Eva Leaf’s This Crown of Comfort. Eva searched the Bible for years to discover places where God spoke to women and one rainy day in a tent, she reread Isaiah. ‘I finally found it,’ she writes, ‘I read an outpouring of God’s heart towards a city called Jerusalem. He called her a beloved woman!’ Many years, and 33 drafts later, This Crown of Comfort was completed. ‘With each new draft, I saw a bit more clearly that even in our brokenness we can be whole with God, and that whatever our grief, he is there to comfort us.’

‘I read an outpouring of God’s heart towards a city called Jerusalem. He called her a beloved woman!’

Drawing on the seven calls of God in the book of Isaiah, Eva writes out of searing experience – her own, and that of the many women who spoke to her for the book – and concludes, ‘Despite everything we go through, God’s seven calls are relevant today. For in his tender love, he shows us our beauty and worth. In his powerful love, he gives us strength.’

One of the women who generously shared her story with Eva is known as ‘Becks’ in the book. She has written this blog:

‘In This Crown of Comfort, Eva Leaf takes us on a personal journey through one of the most difficult and incomprehensible realities of existence: the pain and suffering that we encounter and experience in our lifetime. Society today may emphasize the responsibility for us to create happiness by following our hearts to the point where we tend to feel guilty when we are unhappy. This book, however, tells another story: life can be breaking us, circumstances crush us, people hurt us, feelings of sadness, pain, anger, and loneliness completely overwhelm us.

And yet, this is a book of hope! 

And yet, this is a book of hope! Eva shows us the reality of pain and brokenness, but also the reality of a life-giving Companion. In Hebrews 12 the writer says: ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ The word ‘race’ in Greek is Agōn, which means ‘struggle, conflict’. This book looks that reality squarely in the eye: yes, life is hard and there is serious struggle going on, and the many stories are witness to that. But thank God, there is another truth: we are not alone, someone has gone before us, loves us and – in mysterious ways – is able to use our brokenness and pain to draw us closer to himself.

God called Jerusalem a ‘beloved woman’. And when she was badly broken, He draws her into a process of healing. She is to take seven vital steps in her journey of recovery and renewed intimacy with Him. As his children, we are also God’s beloved (wo)men. Through many personal examples, stories from friends and everyday encounters Eva shows us how to use these seven steps as we turn away from patterns of lies and dysfunction and embrace the truth that we truly are God’s beloved. And it all starts with comfort…

This Crown of Comfort is an encouragement for people who are confronted with pain and hardship as they go through life, for we are not alone. Suffering does not have the last word, Jesus does. This book is also for those who are looking to make sense of the journey they are travelling. Eva challenges us to look inward, make an honest inventory for ourselves, and choose the right path going forward. And this book is for those who have a friend or loved one going through crises and are wondering what to say and what to pray. Give them this book as a gift, and if you are able, offer to go through it together, perhaps an even greater gift for the both of you. This Crown of Comfort allows us to discover the love of God in a deeper way, the amazing intimacy with Jesus, our big Brother, and the presence of the great Comforter.

And it all starts with comfort…

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There is hope…

“A few years ago, I conducted a survey of women at various stages in life and with different beliefs. I wanted to know which felt more important to them – faith, hope or love. I figured every single woman would say, ‘Of course, it is love.’

The answers astonished me. They all said, ‘Hope.’

‘Why?’ I asked one woman.

She explained it well. ‘Faith comes and goes, and I have learned to live without love. But hope – if I didn’t have hope, I would die. There would be no reason to live.’

How I identified. If hope didn’t exist, I would have crumbled in impossible situations. If hope meant nothing, comfort could not have comforted me. Romans 15:13 says, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ For us to find comfort, God gives us hope.”

(story from ‘This Crown of Comfort’)

Going back…

Just recently I went back to visit a place where I experienced great pain. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I would come away amazed. For, I learned that a place has nothing to do with pain – it is the person who caused that pain.

It was such a simple and obvious realization, yet it helped me narrow down my grief. For, grief has a way of taking over life, of putting a dark filter over our eyes, but grief is much more specific than a general sad fog. And I learned this because the place where I had been hurt was now beautiful and loved. It was cared for. A place where people lived in peace.

I am deeply thankful to God for this experience and wanted to share it with you. Maybe you too have found the same…

Photo by Lisa Luminaire on Unsplash

Hand-made by God

The question is – who knows me? I have met those who told me I was not enough. They vowed that they could remake me… Sadly, I trusted them.

But there was always another voice calling out, one that took me years to hear. For, “This is what the Lord says – he who created you…, he who formed you…: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.'” (Isaiah 43:1) How I cried when I finally grasped that I had been following the wrong creators. But God picked me up and hugged me. He said, “Do not fear.”

And as I have gone on with him, I am relearning who I am. For God made me, not factory-style, but hand-made. He knows me.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Hope in hopelessness

In January I gave a talk on hope. I struggled in the preparation and went to Derek for help. He asked me one question: “What is the opposite of hope?”

“It’s hopelessness,” I said, and suddenly I identified. I understood. Hopelessness is a deep dejection that nothing will improve, a choking fear that it will always be the same, a desperate feeling of no remedy or cure…

I am still thinking about hope, telling others, and applying it to my life. I trust this ‘Hope Hand’ blesses you as it has blessed me.